Delta started flying from London Heathrow to Philadelphia at the end of April.
US Airways used to fly the route, but as a result of its merger with American Airlines this would have resulted in only BA and AA operating the service as part of their joint business.
As a result, US Airways had to give up the LHR slot, and Delta has got it, although it has to fly to Philadelphia for a minimum of three years (and not just use it for another New York service).
Delta has rostered a narrow body B757 seating a total of 168 passengers in a two-class configuration (see below). In response, BA has increased capacity placing both a B777 and a B787 on the route and AA has added a morning departure from Philadelphia with a B757.
For the time being, there is certainly competitive pricing on the route. In fact, one of the BA flights was departing at exactly the same time – 1810 – as the Delta departure.
I arrived at Philadelphia International at 1630 for my 1810 departure to London Heathrow on flight DL194, a flight time of seven hours.
The entrance to the Skyclub lounge in Terminal D
Delta offers a kerbside check-in at the airport. At present, you arrive at Terminal E, but once airside walk through to Terminal D where the Skyclub is and from where the flight departs. This will change some time next year and check in will be in Terminal D.
After being dropped-off at Terminal E, I walked through to Terminal D and checked-in at the standard desks.
I passed through the TSA check and security, which took about ten minutes, and it was then a short walk to the Skyclub lounge.
This is a good-sized lounge, but at this time of the day it was packed, with very few seats available.
Selection of magazines
I was lucky, since a lady saw I was walking around trying to find a seat close to a plug / powersocket, and since she was about to leave, offered me her seat.
There was a selection of magazines to read and take away and both hot and cold food was available, as well as drinks.
I had eaten before heading to the airport, but there was enough food available so that you could fill up and then dedicate the short flight to sleeping, something that the fully-flat bed encourages.
I also intended to use the arrivals lounge to freshen up before heading to work, and knew I could get some breakfast there.
Following normal procedure, I’d already set my watch back to UK time, so by the time I started working in the lounge it was already past 1700 US time, or 2200 UK time.
I didn’t hear the boarding announcement as I had earplugs in to block out the noise of the man across from me making calls.
But when I saw people leaving, I joined them and walked to gate D15.
Delta has renamed its international business class seat as Delta One, but depending on the aircraft, there are several different versions of the seat (click here for details).
On the B757, the configuration is two-class with economy and Delta One. To view a seatplan, click here.
The main cabin is 108 seats in a 3-3 configuration with a pitch of 31 inches and four inches recline. Each seat has four-way adjustable headrests and 110v AC in-seat power and USB power.
There are then 44 Delta Comfort Plus seats, with four inches extra legroom and 50 per cent more recline, in the same 3-3- configuration. Both seats have nine-inch IFE screens.
Delta One contains 16 seats in a 2-2 configuration, with the seats staggered and slightly angled toward the windows.
Each seat is fully-flat, with a 20.2-inch width which increases to 22.2 inches with the armrest stowed, and an average bed length of 76 inches.
Every seat has 110v AC in-seat power and USB power, while the inflight entertainment is viewed on a 16-inch Elite Integrated Smart Monitor.
Throughout the aircraft, the IFE system provides access to 18 live satellite TV channels, 350 films, 130 hours of stored TV, 95 hours of premium programming from HBO and Showtime, 5,000 digital songs and 27 games, as well as the moving map.
Delta One seating is blue leather and comes with a Westin “Heavenly Bed” duvet and large pillow. These were comfortable and of high quality compared to most airline bedding.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
There are only 16 seats to choose from, and on this flight both 1A and 1B were taken by the third pilot (he didn’t need two seats, just 1A, but the seat next to him was blocked as well, perhaps to allow him to get in and out as necessary).
I was in 1D, which I would avoid because of the noise from the front galley.
Generally, it can be difficult to get out of your seat when either your own seat or the passenger on the aisle has their seat fully-reclined. So if you want to get up a lot, pick an aisle seat; if you want to be undisturbed, pick a window seat (A or D).
I was offered a drink — Champagne, orange juice or a mix of the two — and my jacket was taken.
A bottle of water was waiting by the seat, along with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a Tumi amenity bag containing Malin & Goetz products.
We queued to leave Philadelphia for quite some time; the captain announced this was because an aircraft taxiing ahead of us developed a problem. We were kept informed, but departed some 50 minutes late.
Before take-off, our food orders were taken. After a shrimp with avocado canapé, the menu was as follows:
- Mixed green salad with cranberries, pecans, apples and feta cheese, or
- Creamy corn and poblano soup
- Beef tenderloin with béarnaise sauce, lobster macaroni and cheese, buttered asparagus
- Grilled chicken with tarragon lemon sauce, roasted brussels sprouts and brown rice paella
- Lasagne with eggplant, spinach and mushrooms
- Chilled plate of oak roasted salmon, fennel apple slaw and honey mustard sauce
- Vanilla ice cream sundae with a choice of sauces, whipped cream and chopped nuts
- A tasting of sweet treats
- Selection of fine cheeses
- Jacquart Brit Mosaique, Reims, France (Champagne)
- Chateau Guiraud, Bordeaux, France 2013 (white)
- Beni di Batasioli Langhe Chardonnay Serbato, Italy 2013 (white)
- Decory Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, 2012 (red)
- Chateau Cantemerle, Bordeau, France 2011 (red)
- Banfi Rosa Regale, Piedmont, Italty 2013 (desert wine)
- Quinta de la Rosa Tawny Port, Portugal NV (port)
Having had plenty to eat in Philadelphia and in the lounge, I waited until we had finished our ascent and reclined the seat.
There is a preset button for this but when I pressed it the seat reclined almost all the way, then began to bunch up against the footrest causing the bed to slope up around where your knees would be.
I asked for help and a flight attendant said I had to lower the foot rest slightly. This then left a gap between the seat and the footrest.
Apparently, this is intentional; if so, it is a very strange design, and means there is a bump where your calves are when you sleep, making it much less comfortable than it would be otherwise.
Neverthless, I was determined to sleep. The lady next to me had ordered some food, which was served to her with much noise and laughter from the flight attendants.
Obviously, the fact that I was lying down with an eye mask on and ear plugs in wasn’t clue enough I wanted to sleep. Eventually, things quietened and I did sleep, although during the early morning the flight attendants conducted a noisy conversation which woke me, despite my wearing ear plugs.
This conversation may have been with another passenger, but speaking with some colleagues on the flight, several of them were woken by it as well.
I find this hard to explain. If you are paying for a business class bed on a short fight, for most business travellers it is so you can get as much sleep as possible before going to work the next day. A flat bed helps, but so does quiet. This flight didn’t offer that.
I woke at 0600 when I heard breakfast being served to the passenger next to me and, knowing I would not go back to sleep, raised by seat and was served.
Breakfast started with seasonal fresh fruit, followed by a choice of:
- Portobello mushroom and gruyere cheese omelette with potatoes, asparagus and chicken apple sausage
- Raison and almond granola cereal
The teas were served in a tea pot, which I liked.
The seatbelt light was kept on for the majority of the flight, and for the whole of the final 60 minutes, meaning passengers just ignored it. During the night, there was a fair amount of turbulence, certainly enough to wake me several times, but never alarming.
I’d been told that on these flights you are given a card detailing the arrivals facilities at LHR. On one side of the card would be details of the facilities at the Yotel adjoining Terminal 4 (see news, June 2010), while on the other the new Delta arrivals lounges at T3.
In the event, when I asked about this the flight attendants knew nothing about it, and could not even advise me about what my options were.
The captain made no apologies for the late arrival, either pre-landing or after landing. Perhaps he didn’t think he needed to because it wasn’t the fault of Delta. It’s to be expected that pilots are operationally-focused rather than customer-focused. Nevertheless, some recognition of the fact would have been polite.
The flight was only lightly loaded in economy, so I imagine there would only be a few passengers who were caused problems with onward connections at Heathrow.
Instead, there was a separate announcement that the attendants would come through the cabin to pick up any rubbish and collect headphones. But this must have only been for the main cabin because there were no visits and the cabin crew instead stayed in the front galley and chatted.
On the positive side, we did not hold for landing at Heathrow and so touched down at 0715, 35 minutes behind schedule. There was a delay for our bags to be delivered, and then I went to use the arrival lounge facilities. The review of that can be read here.
There’s a lot to like about this service. The fully-flat bed product means you can get a good night’s sleep – which I did, and I was told by colleagues that on both the flight out a few days earlier and on this return trip, the food was excellent.
Nevertheless, on the debit side, the Philadelphia SkyClub lounge is overcrowded, the onboard bed is not very comfortable, the service was patchy, sometimes friendly and attentive, sometimes indifferent, and the flight was slightly late — not in itself a problem, but some recognition of the fact would have been nice.
On a final more positive note, Delta’s entry on to the route is to be welcomed for the competition it will provide for both AA and BA, and Philadelphia is a great destination.
- SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-2 (A-B, C-D)
- SEAT WIDTH 20.2-22.2in
- SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
- BED LENGTH 76in
- PRICE Fares for LHR-PHL in the Delta One cabin start from £2,942.66 (inclusive of taxes and surcharges) departing May/June
- CONTACT delta.com